Couples renew vows at marriage celebration

Wives and husbands married within diocese say I doall over again

By Gabrielle Nolan

Married couples within the diocese were given a special opportunity to say “I do” all over again.

A Mass of reaffirmation of marriage vows took place at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on April 30.

The event was sponsored by the diocesan Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment in collaboration with the Office of Hispanic Ministry.

Bishop Richard F. Stika celebrated the Mass, with deacons Hicks Armor, Al Forsythe, and Fredy Vargas assisting at the bilingual event.

The bishop thanked the couples for their witness to marriage.

“I just want to congratulate you today,” he said. “It is a beautiful sacrament in which you express love for each other.”

“You know the sacrament of marriage, of matrimony, is one of those sacraments that it is under attack in society today, with all the marriages that end in divorce, way over 50 percent now, and then we have all the debate about same-sex marriages, and all the things that swirl around the word marriage or wedding,” the bishop pointed out. “And yet, it is something elevated by who? By Jesus himself.”

“But Jesus, he didn’t perform his first miracle on a mountain or in a valley or in Jerusalem or in Bethlehem,” Bishop Stika continued. “He performed his first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. At a wedding. He wanted to elevate the sense of the sacrament, to elevate it, to draw attention to it, to know that it’s even in the Church today, it is that one sacrament that the priest or the deacon or the bishop or the pope does not celebrate. He witnesses, for the sacrament happens moment to moment to moment between the married couple. It’s a living, daily, moment-to-moment sacrament that exists. And you know that better than I.”

The bishop also spoke about the Gospel readings for Good Shepherd Sunday, which was celebrated that day.

“Pope Francis talks about how that we are all like sheep, that we should follow the Good Shepherd, that we should follow Jesus. And to the priests he says you should smell like the sheep. What does that mean? To be involved in the lives of family and people,” Bishop Stika said. “It is one of the great blessings of priesthood, to be involved in the lives of families.”

Following the homily, couples stood among their families and friends to renew their vows at the following questions from the bishop:

  • Do you here, in the presence of God and this congregation, renew and affirm the vows you made to each other when you bound yourselves together in holy matrimony?
  • Will you seek to nurture and daily affirm your love and commitment to each other in the light of the love that God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ?

The couples responded “we do” to each question, and together participated in a prayer for their marriages.

A family has their portrait taken with Bishop Richard F. Stika following the Mass of reaffirmation of marriage vows on April 30 at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Following the Mass, the couples and their families were invited to a reception in Cathedral Hall that included a dinner and professional photos with the bishop. Couples also received a commemorative certificate from the event.

Some 340 individuals attended the Mass and reception.

Meredith Oravitz and her husband, James, are parishioners at St. John Neumann in Farragut.

“I really enjoyed the Mass,” Mrs. Oravitz shared. “I came today because I felt it was very special to be a part of the community of all those who have shared in marriage for so many years, and even those who have just been married two years or even less. I really did enjoy it, it touched us.”

“We’ve been married for 53 years now, and it just was something I felt like we needed to be together and reunite our vows and everything again,” she continued. “He has been very special in my life, very special. I don’t know how I could’ve gone so many years without him. It’s very special to be married to him for even two or three years, he’s just a wonderful man.”

Christi Harr and her husband, Fred, are parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and made the drive from Chattanooga to attend the celebration.

“Today is actually our 30th anniversary, so it worked out great,” Mrs. Harr said.

The Harrs have advice for young people discerning and preparing for marriage.

“It’s wonderful, but not easy, and that you should go through the classes that the Catholic Church has to prepare you for what’s coming because it’s not just about the wedding day, it’s about the rest of it,” Mrs. Harr said.

Mr. Harr noted that what’s important is “listening to what the other has to say and being concerned about their feelings, and that decisions going forward are mutual.”

Carolyn Krings, the administrative assistant for the Office of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment, discussed why events like the renewal of vows are important.

“I think the sacrament is such a gift, and that we need to really put that in the forefront for all our guests and their families to be able to remember that our marriage is uniting us with Christ, and that’s the basis of all our marriages,” Mrs. Krings said. “And we’re celebrating some 62-, some 50-year marriages; there were over eight couples that were over 50 years (of marriage). I just think that’s a beautiful legacy that not only they’re leaving their families but they’re leaving for us as Catholics, that their marriage is the foundation of our whole society.”

“The enemy is of course trying to change all that, but we’re not going to let him,” she continued. “We want to celebrate marriage with dinner and a party like this so that it’s special, that people recognize that it’s special.”

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